Much has changed in the world since Arthur C. Clarke’s alien contact novel “Childhood’s End” debuted in 1953, but the creative team behind Syfy’s adaptation thinks the novel’s ideas still are relevant.
Clarke presented what has become a template for “first contact” stories ever since: An alien race comes to Earth, seemingly to offer friendship and the end of famine, disease and war—but at the expense of human identity and, well, total freedom.
In the miniseries premiering Monday, the alien Overlords eventually appear in the form of Karellen, played by Charles Dance from “Games of Throne.” They choose a Midwestern farmer, Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel), to share their message of peace and prosperity.
Basically, Karellen tells humanity that they’ve messed up with war, poverty, pollution and inequality. Local and global leaders still are having these conversations, Vogel said during a recent call with reporters.
“The scary thing is that sort of fast-forward 60 years and we’re kind of still in the same place,” Vogel said. “For all the advancements that we had in technology and medicine and everything else, [when] it comes to us dealing with each other, sadly not much has changed.”
Published after World War II as the Cold War was getting started, “Childhood’s End” dealt with classic concerns of the 1950s: terror about the atomic age, skepticism of the Soviets’ totalitarianism system, fear of conformity and the loss of creativity and individualism in the face of that conformity.
Writer Matthew Graham tweaks elements of Clarke’s influential novel but remains devoted to the major themes. Graham, who wrote the excellent British series “Life on Mars,” says the problems causing worldwide anxiety might be different these days, but the story’s relevance hasn’t changed “one iota.”
“I don’t think anything has changed,” Graham said, before ticking off a few markers. “In 1950 we were coming out of a very brutal war and a very expensive one. No change there.
“We were entering an age of austerity in the 1950s. No change there. We were terrified by the Cold War. No changes there—that potentially is rearing up again.
“Substitute any fear that they had in 1952 to the fears that we have now coming out of the Middle East and you got the same paranoia.”
“Childhood’s End” airs at 7 p.m. CT Monday through Wednesday on Syfy.